Matching wines with Salmon

The best wine pairing for salmon? Growing up by the sea in the west of Ireland, we always enjoyed fresh wild salmon during the summer months. Years later I discovered that by pairing it with the right type of wine, it made a meal fit for a king. Nowadays, fresh wild salmon in Ireland is rare, but the selection of wines on offer is endless, which is a tad ironic, for an island which doesn’t produce wine commercially.

I am often asked at wine tastings “What food would you put would that wine?“  There are food and wine advocates with very regimental views on this. That’s a bit like insisting that a child has to eat something on their plate.  The more you tell them, the less inclined they are to try it.

Food and wine matching is very much down to personal choice.  However, there are recognised food and wine pairings which are are recognised as being sublime, and if you can be open enough to try them out, you will be rewarded.

Salmon has strong minerally flavours of the sea, and a rich oily texture.  Dry Riesling, (pronounced Rees-ling) especially from New Zealand, is my favourite choice to cut through the richness and bring out minerality.  Fine-tune the wine’s limey tropical flavours with a squeeze of lime on the fish.   Likewise, Australian Semillon with its zesty lemon flavours will create a similar harmony.

Gruner Veltliner is a white Austrian grape variety which works really well with salmon.  Aside from its unusual name, its lovely minerally flavours make it a real stand-out wine.

Red wines & salmon? Most red wines will make salmon taste metallic. The trick is to choose reds with light tannins, such as Chinon or St. Nicolas de Bourgueil, from the Loire, juicy light Spanish Garnacha or light fruity New World Pinot Noir. The slightly high acidity in these wines will also break down the rich oiliness.

Waipara Springs Premo Dry Riesling 2010.  A truly delicious limey, minerally Riesling, bone dry, but with incredibly ripe fruit flavours.  €14.99 from Redmonds, Ranelagh; The Wine Boutique, Ringsend; 64 Wine, Glasthule; McHugh’s, Kilbarrack; La Touche Wines, Greystones; D-Six, Ferguson Fine Wines, Clifden.

Peter Lehman Classic Semillon.  This inexpensive wine becomes more intense with age.  I had the 2005 recently, which was wonderful – intense buttery, lemony flavours, richly textured, with super lengthy finish. €10, from independents.

Gruner Veltliner ‘Federspiel,’ Domane Wachau 2010.  This always creates a wow factor when I taste it with people. Incredibly light and elegant, revealing subtle green fruit, white pepper, mineral flavours and an amazingly long finish. €17, from Searsons, The Wine Centre Kilkenny, Sweeneys.

Langlois St. Nicolas de Bourgueil, 2008.  Very ripe juicy redcurrants, raspberries, a little leafiness, and Kittensoft tannins – very, very easy to drink on its own, and truly delicious with salmon. €13.99 from O’Brien’s.